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Best Bites: La Bodega’s calamari

The chef who developed the menu at Barley’s Brewhaus shares his favorite dishes in the area.

The calamares y chorizo a la plancha ($9) at La Bodega, 703 Southwest Blvd, in Kansas City, Missouri.

What’s your best bite?

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Vlad Vergara’s first job in a restaurant was as a prep cook and dishwasher. Almost 20 years later, he’s the chef at the Barley’s Brewhaus on 119th Street in Overland Park and developed the Barley’s menu for all of the restaurant locations.

One favorite he’s added to the menu comes straight from his family’s kitchen. The the crispy pork belly ($2 for a micro plate, $7 for a small plate) marinates for 24 hours before being air dried, braised and roasted. It’s served with a side of sweet and sour chile, and Vergara calls the dish “fatty, meaty, pork goodness.”

But outside of the kitchen he runs, Vlad has a series of favorite dishes in the area.

Vergara says he avoid typical breaded and fried calamari dishes so he appreciates the calamares y chorizo a la plancha ($9) at La Bodega, 703 Southwest Blvd., a sauteed prepration which really brings out the flavors in the squid, he says. It’s served with tomatoes, garlic and a little bit of lemon juice.

It’s a simple but effective dish. “There are very few ingredients in it, but it’s super, super tasty and the calamari is always really tender,” Vergara says.

The polenta ($10) at YaYa’s Euro Bistro, 4701 W. 119th St. in Overland Park, is another of Vergara’s favorite starters. The dish is made from a duck confit that has been mixed with a balsamic red wine demi-glace that’s then poured over the polenta.

The concoction has the earthiness of the polenta and the savory sweetness from the confit, Vergara says. There was a brief time when the dish was off the menu, and Vergara says he was devastated. “It’s an outstanding dish, and I’m really glad they put it back on,” he says.

Admittedly, the chicken feet in black bean sauce ($3.50-$3.75) at Bo Lings, 4701 Jefferson St., isn’t for everyone, Vergara says. But he suggests that anyone who likes eating the skin of the chicken should give the feet a try. The dim sum dish is served daily at the Plaza location, not just on the weekends for the restaurant’s dim sum brunches.

And for brunch on the weekends, Vergara says the joey dogs ($8) at Gram & Dun, 600 Ward Parkway, hit the spot. These breakfast sausages are dipped in a corn pancake batter and are the breakfast equivalent of a corn dog. The batter has a hint of maple syrup in it and the dogs are served with a sweet grain mustard. They’re addictive, Vergara says.


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